The Unicorn Scale: Ocean's 8

By Jennie Roberson

May 04, 2021



Photo credit: Warner Bros.

I love a good heist movie. Oh, sure, I’m all for the highbrow, prestigious films we all like to list in our top fives at parties when we’re trying to impress somebody. And I have those. But I also love popcorn-fare, and it’s okay to like formulaic stuff from time to time, no matter what Rick and Morty likes to say. And that definitely includes a good robbery flick. A beautiful cast, great teamwork, and Robin Hood tactics all while sticking it to the Man — what’s not to love?

So when my sister suggested Ocean’s 8 would be a good candidate for a Unicorn Scale, it made sense. And while I enjoyed it during its opening weekend years ago, I didn’t remember much about the fun-filled afternoon seeing it back in the day other than Rihanna in a stunning pink couture dress, Sandra Bullock’s dress having a deep cut showing off her back (Jesus, am I bi), a few bites of dialogue, lots of shots of art at the mark … er, the Met. But then the image of Cate Blanchett giving an awfully cuddly hug to Sandra Bullock flew across my mind. That was enough to merit a watch on behalf of the column for me.

Before I get too down into the dirty, let’s go over some ground rules. First and foremost, this column will contain SPOILERS for the film. And while the movie is tamer than many that have graced the Scale before it, there may be some PG-13 content warnings to watch out for — mostly for language. Finally, if this is your first time around here, you can find out about the metrics I’m using to gauge the film HERE.

So, are you in or out?

In? Great. Let’s get to work.

Ocean’s 8 is a 2018 heist ensemble comedy, continuing the 2000 reboot franchise of 1960. In this edition, Debbie (Sandra Bullock), sister of recently departed Danny Ocean (George Clooney in the previous films), is fresh outta the clink and ready to head up an intrepid team of women to steal prized jewels from the Met gala opening.

What I Liked:

I still maintain that my bi-fi got a strong signal when Lou (Cate Blanchett) first came into contact with Debbie after her stint in prison, covering her with hugs and kisses. I’m sure people could read that encounter as straight, but Lou’s character and costumes (with all of its delicious power suits) scream a strong queer aesthetic to me.

Photo/Warner Bros.

But really, as my sister pointed it out, it’s Debbie who is serving casual bisexuality throughout the film. We get hints at, and then flashbacks of, her falling in love with the wrong person, Claude Beckett (Richard Armitage), who sets her up to take a fall.

Now, I know a lot of the straights could argue good friends would embrace at first sight of each other after one of them serves time, and Lou and Debbie clearly work well together pulling jobs. And they’d be right. But there are a few other things that pointed towards sexual fluidity to me. When Tammy (Sarah Paulson) asks how Debbie could have fallen for a guy like Claude, her response was, “Well, Lou and I were going through a rough patch.” 

Answering a romantic question with a “my bestie and I were having a tough time” doesn’t read as easily as “my girl and I needed a break from each other” as a natural response.

Coupling that with some earlier flirting about diamonds and proposals at a Ukrainian diner and eating sausages off of each other’s forks in literally the next sentence? Come on, now. This isn’t rocket science here, folks.

What I Didn't Like:

I feel like an 1890s schoolmarm clucking for recitations from students each time I do this, but: What do I not like happening during nearly every modern queer film, class?

“They didn’t use the term 'bi’.”

Good. And do they have an excuse?

“No, Miss Roberson.”

And why not?

“Because the film takes place in the 20th century, and the term ‘bisexual’ has been around for over a hundred years and is common usage, so films can stop being cagey and start using labels where they fit to stop queer baiting and perpetuating bi erasure and make room for more nuanced bi representation.”

Full marks, class. Now let’s bring out our chalkboards; it’s time for our arithmetic lessons.

Well, at least they didn’t resort to #KillYourGays this time. Nobody dies in heist comedies, anyways.

The Rating:

In some ways, this is a good example of seamlessly adding queer main characters into film genres they should be in, without their sexuality being fetishized or used as a tool. I love seeing Debbie’s established histories with multiple partners without necessarily shining a big ol’ light on it. But y’know, it’d be nice to hear the label “bi” from time to time while they’re working to put together a film as slick as Ocean’s 8. Maybe in the world of these movies, it’s even rarer than a Cartier diamond.

Photo/Warner Bros.


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